13 Reasons Why

“You don’t know what goes on in anyone’s life but your own. And when you mess with one part of a person’s life, you’re not messing with just that part. Unfortunately, you can’t be that precise and selective. When you mess with one part of a person’s life, you’re messing with their entire life. Everything affects everything.” – 13 Reasons Why.

 

The last day and a half have been a roller-coaster of emotions for me because I felt it necessary to binge-watch the entire first season of 13 Reasons Why. This show has hit me more emotionally than a lot of other shows because of the subject matter regarding suicide, bullying, friendship and helplessness.

I had avoided watching this show for fear that reports of it glamorising suicide may have been true. But that’s not what I got from this show. Unfortunately the show does seem to perceive suicide as a justice-bringer and enforce the idea that everybody will miss you and rethink what they did when you die (as long as you leave them tapes explaining what they did and threaten them with police action) and it also seems to treat suicide in a similar way to playing a game (especially with the thirteen tapes and the map around town). But it doesn’t glamorise the actual mindset or frame of mind that a person has to be in to commit suicide.

There’s a heavy bullying tone going on throughout 13 Reasons Why, what with the bullying being the main speculation of why Hannah Baker has killed herself. Her parents have started a lawsuit claiming neglect on the part of the school and it’s actually quite interesting to see what the school does and doesn’t do in regards to emotional traumas.

One of the first things I really want to talk about is rumours. Hannah Baker’s life goes downhill very quickly because of one picture and a rumour. Now with rumours we tend to only place blame on those that started it, believing that if they hadn’t started it then it wouldn’t have happened. It’s true, it wouldn’t, but the blame is on everybody who shares the rumour, believes it to be true or lets it influence their opinion of a person without once consulting the person who is the subject of the rumour. I may be slightly biased with this but the first few episodes were very tough viewing for me because it took me back to a similar place where my own mental health was completely messed around by a group of people and some malicious rumours/gossip. Some viewers may just say that it’s not enough to want to kill yourself but as somebody who has been in that position, it’s a lot worse than you can possibly imagine. It’s not something that can just be forgotten about easily and you can’t just “move on” when a rumour has completely changed people’s perceptions of you.

We also have to talk about objectification. There’s a huge, huge amount of objectification in this series and it’s very well tackled actually. Hannah Baker feels objectified when she finds herself on a list of “best and worst” physical assets of girls in the school. Despite the fact that she’s on the “best” section of the list, it’s not something we can just dismiss as acceptable. Many people in the show pretend that it’s a compliment but it’s objectification and it’s horrific to think that people are treated like that. We’re all guilty of objectification, I’m not going to pretend we don’t all look at somebody and think “they’re hot”, but it’s when they stop being a person and just become an object that things get into a risky area. To treat somebody like they should be grateful to have men leering at them is a ridiculous idea and a horrible reflection of a sexist bygone era. People are people, regardless of what you think of them, and their feelings should always be taken into consideration. My advice is that if you are going to objectify people (because I believe it’s fantasy to pretend it won’t ever happen) is to do it in your head. Don’t single people down to being anything less than human, don’t ever pretend a person is just made up of one single asset or should be grateful for your attention. That’s not how people work.

One of the more complex issues is the way the school handles everything. Children, in particular teenagers, often pass off like they are fine and dandy with everything going on in the world. When somebody is killed via a drink driving incident then the school puts up posters to encourage people not to drink and drive. Suicide is seen to be prevented via more posters going up and urging people they are important. Whilst this isn’t a bad thing, as such, there is definitely more that needs to be done. One good thing I saw in this series and I know they don’t have it at many schools in the UK is the idea of a communications class. Getting people to deal with how they communicate and interact is an integral part of life as a teenager and schools don’t seem to put a focus on that. They’ll hand out punishments but they won’t actually try and educate the children in the ways of acceptable behaviour. Knowing people commit suicide, teaching people about bullying and suicide statistics would be a hundred percent more beneficial than just throwing down a detention whenever you see a fight.

I did notice, from my own experience of counselling, that the show promotes a very disjointed view of counselling. School counselling currently is awful in most schools. We had one and she did nothing. Like, honestly, absolutely nothing. 13 Reasons Why seems to suggest a need for counselling but then doesn’t acknowledge that the one attending needs to want help. I personally didn’t know whether I blamed the counsellor for Hannah Baker’s death or not. Towards the end of the series she seems beyond help, like she has already made up her mind, and she wants other people to sort her problems rather than work with her to sort them. I know the feelings and I don’t blame her, but to blame the counsellor for not following her after a counselling session is a grey area in my books. Granted some of the things he said in the session were questionably unhelpful but it’s his job to offer help and whether she takes it or not isn’t his fault. It made me realise the necessity for mandatory counselling or counselling-like classes at school. People sometimes need help and are too afraid to seek it out, thinking they are beyond help, but mandatory counselling sessions would help to ensure people don’t get to this point and that they receive the help they do need. It would make sure that kids like Hannah Baker don’t get pushed and pushed right to the edge before they finally make that decision.

The show gave me something that I wished would work in the real world. An anonymous compliment bag. Each student had one and you could write a compliment to a person, pop it into their bag and you wouldn’t have to face the awkwardness of saying it to their face. It was a refreshing idea to help those who might be too afraid to show their emotions. Granted this system gets abused and it has it’s flaws but it’s just an improvement on the way people currently interact. I, like Hannah Baker, need compliments to make me feel better – no matter how anonymous. Even if you think the compliments are stupid or just rubbish little things, they are important to some people and they make some people feel better. It’s a good idea that I wish could be in place in a lot more schools around the world. It promotes a healthy positivity that is lacking in the world.

It is worth emphasising that suicide does not bring justice. If you are feeling suicidal and want people to listen then you need to find somebody to talk to. Somebody will listen, I promise. Maybe not the ones you want to listen, but somebody will. Professionals will. Suicide is not a way to get revenge on those that hurt you. Unfortunately that’s the message that some people have taken away from 13 Reasons Why, which is definitely not the message it was trying to convey.

The show 13 Reasons Why can be very triggering to somebody with a preexisting mental health issue and so I recommend it only if you feel strong and comfortable enough in your mental state. If you do suffer from suicidal thoughts then it’s very important that you talk to somebody open and honestly about your thoughts.

“It has to get better. The way we treat each other and look out for each other. It has to get better somehow.” – 13 Reasons Why.

 

Man Up!

“I’m not convinced by this new trend of male public soul-bearing. Time for our gender to get a grip, methinks. Life’s tough- man up.”

Piers Morgan wrote this on Twitter on May 5th. The ensuing argument amongst his fans and foes was actually rather entertaining to watch, particularly seeing him trying to justify his particular choice of words.

To begin with, yes, the idea of saying “man up” is sexist. It’s a reference to “toughen up” but with connotations suggesting that being a man is essentially being tougher than a woman. Oh and if you question “should we change everything with the word man in it then? Like Mankind?” Then yes, we probably should. The idea stems from a patriarchal and misogynistic bygone era that some people understand we need to move away from are trying to take us out of. Mankind should be Personkind. Just because the phrase Mankind has been around for a long time and has become ingrained into our vocabulary does not mean it doesn’t need to change with the times.

Also I have to mention that he doesn’t seem to have a problem with women baring their souls in public, just the men. This is probably because he still holds onto the age old belief that men can only be men if they don’t show emotion. Men are apparently supposed to be stone-faced, stoic and emotionless when in public but women can apparently break down and cry regardless of what happens. This is the idea that women can be considered weak, after all it doesn’t impact our perception of them because we must already think of them as weaker. But men are strong and strong people don’t bare their souls. If a man breaks down, cries and bares his soul then he’s weak and that impacts our perception of him in a negative way. This, in case you haven’t already guessed, is also a sexist way to view the world. Don’t segregate men and women. Biologically and physically there are differences between men and women (talking about sex and not gender here) but anything a man and a woman are capable of doing should be treated entirely equally. If a man were physically unable to bare his soul in public then I would get your concern, as it is both sexes are capable of baring their souls to whomever they like and as such we should encourage the open and honest communication of anybody and everybody.

Mr Morgan also goes on to defend himself by claiming that he really only speaks about celebrities who are trying to endorse a product or some sort of new venture they may have coming out soon. True, some celebrities are encouraged to play up to the cameras but this doesn’t mean we have to discourage everybody from doing it. I believe the phrase One Bad Apple perfectly explains that “one bad apple don’t spoil the whole bunch” and so just because one person does it for attention doesn’t mean we should dissuade everybody from doing it.

And, whilst I don’t actually believe the claims that Mr Morgan wasn’t speaking directly about mental health, to separate mental health and soul-baring is a dangerous thing to do. Bottling things up inside can cause mental health problems. Having to wait until you get home to talk to somebody about something can warp your mind over time. Assigning times and places to when men can talk about their feelings does nothing but promote an unhealthy attitude towards mental health. Mental health problems begin somewhere and they usually begin with the attitude that people shouldn’t speak about their problems. Your statement, whilst maybe not entirely directed at people suffering from mental health issues, does not help anybody who is currently suffering from mental health problems.

The Things We Don’t Say

Today was my grandmother’s funeral.

She was diagnosed with lung cancer and then it was only a week or two before she could barely lift her head and wasn’t eating or drinking anything. My dad would tell me that when he went down to visit her all she would have would be three half tablespoons of tomato soup and a sip or two of water to keep her going for the entire day. Despite having spent a couple of years on an oxygen tank I didn’t expect her to go so quickly after her diagnosis.

I had never doubted that my grandmother loved me. I never for a moment believed that she thought anything but positive thoughts about me and the rest of my family. She was a woman who would fight staunchly for her family and loved us with all of her heart. This was no secret and we all knew how proud she was of us. She never played favourites and made sure that everybody was always treated equally and fairly. She is actually one of the few people I can say that I felt never judged me. I knew she would accept me regardless of who I turned out to be. If I succeeded she would always be there with a congratulations and if I failed she would always be there with helpful words to try and pick me up out of the funk. To me she didn’t have a mean bone in her body.

But over the majority of my life I have been struggling with unemployment, depression, anxiety, trust and acceptance issues and my motivation to leave the house had slowly been dwindling to almost non-existent quantities. When my parents and I moved away in 2012 it became increasingly difficult for me to spend time with those people I cared for because now they lived so far away. For these reasons I didn’t get back to my old hometown as much as I would have liked. I didn’t get to visit my grandmother as much as I wanted because my brain wouldn’t allow me to make the two and a half hour drive (including motorway driving) down to my old hometown.

Now I bring this to light because of something somebody said to me at the wake. I hadn’t visited my grandmother for a few years and simply remarked that a picture on the front of the Order of Service book didn’t look like the grandmother I knew. She had gained weight from inactivity and I simply remarked that I never saw her like that. This prompted somebody else to comment “You didn’t visit her? That’s awkward. You probably don’t want to be saying that too loud around here.” This simple comment hit me harder than a full-speed truck.

I suddenly felt like I had let her down. This was woman who had shown nothing but unconditional love for me and now I felt like I didn’t deserve to be called her grandson. I felt like a fraud, a failure and a horrible human being. I still do. But that’s why I write this, because I missed my opportunity to tell her how much she meant to me.

This was the third funeral in my lifetime and I have never felt emotion like this before. The other two funerals I had been to – my grandfather and my other grandmother’s – didn’t leave me devastated like this one because I had no doubt that they both knew how much I loved them. Even if we didn’t always agree on things, even if we argued, there was no doubt that they knew I loved them and I knew they loved me too. This one doesn’t feel the same. This funeral felt like I didn’t belong because I felt like she didn’t know I loved her. I feel like she left this world thinking me ungrateful and disrespectful and she won’t ever know how far from the truth that is.

I am currently a mess of tears and tissues because I’m trying to find the words to explain why I didn’t visit her. Some people don’t understand the crippling pain of anxiety or the inability to do anything when faced with depression. It’s paralysing. I didn’t want to visit her because in my mind I thought she didn’t want to see me. On clearer days I could see how stupid this was but in the midst of depression you don’t see or think clearly. I also thought I had more time with her. She wasn’t seriously ill until she was and then she very quickly deteriorated until we got the phone call telling us she had died.

But there’s nothing I can do anymore. I understand the ultimate-ness that is death. I know that however much I cry or pray she isn’t going to come back just so I can tell her all the things I wish I had told her. But that doesn’t stop me from wanting it. It doesn’t stop me from finally understanding all those songs where people wish for just another day or just another hour, or even just a minute. I finally get it. Because now I feel like she won’t ever know.

I don’t often find myself looking for solace in religion. I have never considered myself a man who would turn to religion for anything. But during the service the Reverend would talk about a day when my grandmother would be reunited with everybody once again. I don’t know if I believe it but I know I want to believe it. I want to have another chance to apologise to her. I want to have a chance to tell her all the things I wish I could have told her and how much I respected her both as a person, a woman, a mother and a grandmother.

I also want her to be reunited with my grandfather in whatever afterlife there may be because I know how badly she hurt when he died.

One of the last things I remember my mum telling me my grandmother had said was how she wished she could see the sky and the trees again before she died because from her hospital bed she couldn’t see anything. The bed she died in had a clear view of both the sky and the trees.

In Defence Of: Sheldon Cooper

Earlier today an article appeared on my Facebook timeline in relation to a possible spin-off show from The Big Bang Theory which would focus on a young Sheldon Cooper growing up in rural Texas with his conservative family.

As is the general rule with most internet related media; Don’t read the comments. This popped up on my timeline because somebody I know commented “Oh God no he’s the reason I can’t stand the big bang agrivates me”. This prompted me to look through some of the other comments which were probably a mistake. Another gem was “I think the tv execs mistake the appeal of Jim Parsons for an appeal of Sheldon Cooper. Sheldon has become an the most annoying character on a stale tv show.”

To most people the idea of living with Sheldon Cooper would be a nightmare. But, for some of us, living with Sheldon Cooper is a reality. I have found over time that I embody some of the quirks that Sheldon demonstrates. Now already people will probably be leaping to my defence and saying “no, he’s a character, he’s exaggerated and over the top” to which I would agree to a certain extent. However we have to be realistic and understand that this idea for a person came from somewhere, these “quirks” do sit within some of the general population. Therefore when you decide you hate Sheldon Cooper, somebody like me sees that you probably hate me as well. Truth is you hate Sheldon Cooper because you don’t know him. You haven’t lived his life and no matter how good a television show is it can’t make you understand what it’s like to live in those shoes unless you have.

This is why I make a defence for Sheldon Cooper as a character. Whilst I don’t advocate being more like Sheldon, I do suggest trying to understand more about why he does the things he does.

Sheldon has OCD in his routine. His days and weeks are planned out well in advance and he freaks out with any sense of change to this routine because it throws confusion into his world. I experience this too. Whilst I don’t actually do enough to plan every moment of my life, I do understand that a spontaneous change of plan can terrify a person. It feels like somebody has taken time away from you. Even if you’ve planned to do nothing on that day, it’s suddenly a huge deal when somebody wants to make you work or go out because your time is no longer your own. It feels as if a part of your life is being controlled by somebody else and it is terrifying.

Sheldon also has OCD in other things; the way he has his tea made and his three knocks on doors are just some examples. This could have started out as something innocent, it felt good and so he continued it. As habits go they aren’t the worst but anybody can find anything addictive. Perhaps Sheldon finds these sort of behaviours soothing in an otherwise busy mind and sometimes we’ll do whatever we have to for that hit of relaxation.

Sheldon is rather obsessive over “his spot”. He has a spot on the sofa that is the perfect distance for him in regards to temperature, comfort, television watching capability and other things. This is another sense of control. This way Sheldon knows he always has a seat and never has to worry about awkward social gatherings and where to sit because people know not to sit in his spot. It’s one less thing to worry about in a world where he worries about everything.

Sheldon and his “contracts”. He has roommate agreements and relationship agreements that he makes people sign and agree to. This is the work of an insecure person and I know that because it’s exactly something I would do. It’s not that Sheldon doesn’t trust people, it’s that he doesn’t know how to trust people. He’s been hurt a lot in his life (taken from any of the numerous bullying stories and his turbulent home life) and so it’s not strange that Sheldon would feel he has to have some sort of legal agreement that people won’t break their promises. Also given that he’s not particularly great with his emotions and focuses more on logic, this is a more logical thing to do than just trust somebody won’t betray you.

Sheldon is a know-it-all. Sheldon puts more stock in his intelligence than he does in any other facet of his personality. Without his intelligence he doesn’t know who he is. I know exactly how this feels and yes, sometimes we can come across as a know-it-all or pretentious but it’s just our way of making sure you don’t forget about us. It’s another insecurity really; we don’t have a whole lot else we value in ourselves and so we exaggerate the one thing we do value. Just look at the episode with Dennis Kim, a child prodigy that seems to overshadow Sheldon in terms of intelligence and achievements. Sheldon is lost for who he is as a person when he’s not the smart one. Him putting other people down isn’t a malicious thing, it’s his way of reminding people that he has something to offer. If you want more on this then I suggest you read this blog post which I wrote a while ago about how without my intelligence I don’t know who I am or what I have to offer.

Sheldon expects people to do things for him. This is a sad one. Given that he didn’t have the ideal home life growing up, it’s not difficult to see why Sheldon would cling to a time when he felt loved and cared for. As a child (possibly infant stage and before) we have parents to look after us, make our decisions, care for us when we’re sick, drive us around, buy us things, reward us, etc. It’s a mindset that can be hard to break when you have hated the following stage of your life so much. I know I personally sometimes do this because otherwise I don’t think people would notice me. If I didn’t ask them to do things for me or over-exaggerate when I’m sick then I feel that I would fall into the background and be forgotten about.

A lot of what Sheldon does can be put down to insecurities and fear of being alone or forgotten about. They are also classic signs of mental health issues and so to write somebody off as annoying because of mental health issues doesn’t encourage people to be open and honest about them. Some of my favourite moments of Sheldon’s come when he’s open and honest about not understanding people and how alone it makes him feel, when he tries to explain why he’s different without ever truly understanding it himself.

The show, if you don’t like Sheldon Cooper, shouldn’t be looked at as being about him and his quirks. What you should focus on is the people around him who DO live with him and DO put up with him. How do they do it? Why do they do it? They may be fictional but they are better human beings than anybody who says they cannot tolerate and hate Sheldon Cooper.

As somebody who identifies very closely with Sheldon Cooper it hurts me when other people rail on him for being “a horrible person”, “annoying” and “unbearable” because you might as well have just said the things about me.

Bye Bye Bye

Given that I only experience my own life and that I experience a lot of that through hazy goggles of mental health issues, I don’t know what is common for people to feel and what is down to my own personal issues.

I have recently been feeling a fair amount of separation anxiety/abandonment issues due to my personal trainer leaving his job at the gym and thus ending our trainer/trainee relationship. Now for most people I assume this wouldn’t be a big deal, you just go and get another personal trainer. For me it’s a big deal because I don’t click with a lot of people, especially not masculine, jock-type gym-goers who actually enjoy sports, so to be given another personal trainer makes me nervous and apprehensive. This I’ve been told is fairly normal but I can’t help but panic about whether I’m going to feel as comfortable with this new guy as I did with my original trainer.

Since the NHS only allowed me to have 12 counselling sessions before they considered me “better” (which caused all sorts of anxiety when I had to leave a therapist I really liked seeing) I had been using my personal training time as a sort of therapy session. My trainer was really easy to talk to and I felt like he could relate to some of the things I had/was going through at the time. I used to enjoy going to the gym not for the exercise but because it felt like I was spending time with a friend or with somebody who actually wanted to listen. It’s irrelevant to me as to whether he wanted to or not, the fact that it felt like he wanted to is what matters to me.

But now he’s gone, or at least he will be tomorrow, and I don’t really know how to feel about it. It’s a classic example of what happens – I get overly attached to people and then get depressed when they leave. They probably think of me no more than a client or something formal like that, maybe even an acquaintance at a push, but for somebody who doesn’t make friends easily it’s very difficult to let go.

Stopping for a moment to get all psychologist on myself. I have never been abandoned physically by any member of my family. I’ve never had any sort of major trauma in that kind of sense. But maybe it’s my fear of being alone. I was always an outsider in my family and so I felt alone a lot of the time and so when somebody actively takes an interest in me or my life then it really means something to me.

So now I’m torn because something comfortable has been taken away from me and it’s not fair. I wasn’t ready to let it go and I don’t want to get to know a new trainer.

Don’t get me wrong. I hope my old trainer is happy with whatever he’s decided to pursue (I didn’t push the subject, it was fairly difficult to take the news anyway), but, and in a purely selfish vein, I don’t want him to go. Oh and also don’t mistake me. I don’t hate my new trainer. I’ve met him, he’s a nice guy, but whether we’ll click or not is a totally different thing and it worries me beyond belief because I felt like I had such a good relationship with my old trainer.

This is actually quite a big deal for me and the idea that I’ll never see him again is quite frustrating. I don’t really know how to feel either because a lot of people without mental health issues will probably tell me I’m being stupid (God knows that’s what my parents wanted to say when I told them), but I can’t explain how big of a deal it is to find somebody you actually want to spend time with when you spend most of your time hating the world or hating yourself. In fact, it’s an even bigger deal when you find somebody who acts like they enjoy spending time with you because you don’t consider yourself somebody anybody actually wants to be around.

I know some people won’t understand because the trainer/trainee relationship one is one that you pay for. Essentially I was paying for his time. But it didn’t matter to me, it felt comfortable and that’s all I cared about. Now I have to go from feeling comfortable to looking into the unknown.

As a footnote; taking care of your physical health is a great way to care for your mental health. People don’t enjoy the act of working out, they enjoy the way it makes them feel afterwards. That ache in your muscles makes it feel like you’ve achieved something.

If Merle Would Sing My Song

 

This is probably one of my favourite songs. It’s a bitter-sweet song about how somebody is looking for success, trying their hardest but isn’t getting the breaks or the opportunities that they feel they might deserve. It’s also a nice commentary on the world today when it says “But I still could be an overnight sensation / It would only take one sympathetic ear.” Because as we all know, with viral videos and trends these days, one person’s life can literally change overnight.

I perhaps relate a bit too much to this song. Perhaps not in the realm of music and playing a guitar on the streets of Nashville, but I have been writing content since I was eighteen and I have been applying for literary/journalism jobs since I graduated University. I’ve yet to find that sympathetic ear and it’s not for lack of trying.

I find this song to be quite alarming in the idea that it can literally take just one person to change your entire life. I’m also not sure how much other people realise that a simple act can change somebody’s life. It may not be a secret, I’m not sure how many people realise it, but I have written off and written open letters to people in positions of celebrity and high profiles asking for that “one sympathetic ear”. A chance to prove myself and to prove that I am good enough to put myself forward as a viable person with something to contribute to society (something which I don’t often feel currently in life). However, I have received no replies. Even those who I viewed as borderline infallible and practically perfect in every way didn’t even send me a courteous “acknowledgement but sorry” reply. It’s times like these that I feel invisible in the world.

The way I see it is that I’m in a huge hole. Probably about ten, maybe twenty feet deep. And I’m stuck there shouting for help. My friends are there and they know I need help but don’t have the resources to help me get out of the hole. Occasionally people walk by with a rope or a ladder and I try to ask them for help. Just to throw down a rope or ladder and then they can be on their way. They don’t have to jump down into the hole with me and stay with me, all I ask for is a rope.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I understand that it’s not an obligation to stop and help somebody out of a hole. There is no law that says they have to help me out just because somebody is in a hole and they have resources to help the person out.

Some may call me selfish, some may call me ungrateful for what I do have in life, but I’ve reached my end. I’ve been stuck for so long that I no longer know what to do without other people’s help. I no longer feel capable of getting out of this hole on my own. I’ve even been told that “that’s life” and that “dreams aren’t made to come true” but the only recurring positive I’ve had in my life is my dreams and I’m not sure what happens to my life if I decide to throw them away and give up on them. There’s an old adage that says “it takes a lot of strength to admit you need help” so I don’t believe asking for help is selfish, I believe it’s just admitting that perhaps you can’t do everything alone.

I’m probably not the only person in this position, in fact I can almost guarantee I’m not. But I’m asking for help. From anybody who has the resources/connections to help. I learned, from my time unemployed, that many people refuse to give “handouts” to those that need them. It’s no secret that a lot of people believe that a person should be able to “get themselves out of their situation” be this unemployment or purely mental health, however I have to say that sometimes it’s beyond your own capability to progress from your current situation to a better one, that’s when we need to ask for help.

Sometimes people don’t need a handout, sometimes people just need a hand.

Not Until You’re Thirty

So do you ever have those days where you feel like your best years are all gone? I’m 27 and to a lot of people that isn’t that old, but to me it’s getting on past my prime. In fact it seems that with every day that goes past there are younger and younger celebrities. You know how they say fifty is the new forty or whatever? Yeah, I’m starting to feel that 27 is the new 87. I feel old, past it and done with. I’m not even sure if this is a mental health thing or whether it’s just a general thing that most people will feel at some point in their lifetime.

I think it’s because I haven’t reached where I wanted to be when I got close to thirty. I thought I’d already have something published, I thought I’d have already achieved some sort of fame and success. Perhaps these were just the innocent boyish dreams of a teenage boy who hadn’t quite seen adulthood and it’s responsibilities yet.

So here is something that I occasionally like to do to make me feel a little bit better. A brief list of well known people who didn’t achieve their huge success until after certain ages.

30 – 40

Hugh Jackman – Was aged 31 when he starred as Wolverine in the X-Men films.

Jon Hamm – Was 36 when he starred in Mad Men.

Sean Connery – Was aged 32 when he starred as James Bond in the Bond franchise.

Oprah Winfrey – Was 32 when her television show went National.

Alan Rickman – Was 32 when he appeared in Die Hard.

40 – 50

Simon Cowell – Didn’t receive mainstream attention until he was 43 and created American Idol.

Vera Wang – Opened her first design studio at the age of 41.

Steve Carrell – Was 43 when he landed his role on the American version of The Office.

Samuel L. Jackson – Was 41 when he appeared in Do The Right Thing.

Julia Child – Was 49 when she published her first cookbook.

50 – 60

Betty White – Was 51 when she appeared on The Mary Tyler Moore Show

Morgan Freeman – Was 52 when he appeared in Driving Miss Daisy.

Richard Adams – Was 52 when he published Watership Down

Regis Philbin – Was 57 when Live! With Regis and Kathie Lee was syndicated.

Kathryn Joosten – Was 56 when she began her acting career.

60+

Colonel Sanders – Was 62 when the first KFC was franchised.

Frank McCourt – Was 66 when he published Angela’s Ashes.

Laura Ingalls Wilder – In her 60s when the Little House series was first published.

Daniel Defoe – Was 60 when he wrote Robinson Crusoe.

Dame Judi Dench – Appeared in theatre before but not on screen until her 60s.

 

(I am still also searching for any well known people or professionals – of various fields (YouTube, Country Music, Gaming, Mental Health) – who would be interested in conducting an interview with me about their lives. Please share).

What is ASMR?

ASMR has helped me more than I can explain. From sleepless nights, stressful evenings and just times needing to chill, ASMR has been able to provide me with the much needed relaxation. For some people ASMR is great, it’s able to help them sleep better, perhaps works well as background noise while they’re working or studying and even helps calm them down for stressful situations. For those that don’t experience ASMR though it can be a very confusing and slightly odd thing for people to become obsessed with.

The technical term for ASMR is Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. It’s still a largely unknown area because of the personal nature of the experiences, the recentness of its popularity and it being difficult to measure.

Search ASMR on YouTube and you will come up with a whole host of videos that you may not understand. People tapping on boxes, dentists whispering to you, people offering to do your makeup. It’s odd if you don’t know why you’re watching it. You’re watching it for the “tingles”. The tingles that usually occur in the upper back, neck or head region. These tingles are brought out through various “triggers” (the box tapping, whispering etc) and so finding out if/what your triggers are is the first important thing. You may remember back to being at school when somebody asked to borrow something and seeing them using it sent tingles up your spine. You may even remember hearing the sounds of scratching pens and pencils making you feel more relaxed than on edge. It’s different for each person and the best thing I can suggest if you think you may have ASMR or want to experience it is to look around for your triggers.

Personally I use ASMR as relaxation and comfort. I like the whispering videos because they feel close and intimate and it’s not something I get in every day life. The key ones for me are the sound videos. Tapping boxes, iPads, tables, glasses, bottles, etc. They all make different noises and for me they all elicit a sort of positive response in my body that makes listening to them enjoyable. Some videos I didn’t think I would ever like – for example mouth sound videos – because I can’t stand the sound of them in everyday life but the idea of having control over when you hear it is actually quite a nice feeling too.

One common misconception is that ASMR brings out sexual feelings when listening to it, and so people who don’t understand sometimes view it as slightly pornographic or “dirty”. It’s not. Most people have no sexual response to ASMR and it is in fact just a generic pleasurable feeling rather than anything linked directly to sexuality. Some ASMRtists (the accepted name for somebody who makes ASMR videos) do use sexuality to encourage views of their videos but this isn’t to be confused with the response people feel from it.

I know of people who use ASMR to help calm them down before scary encounters. For some a dentist roleplay might seem bizarre but having a comforting and relaxing voice talking you through things is nice if you’re a bit nervous about your upcoming trip to the dentist.

ASMR is fully utilised with headphones because the sound is so close that you can hear every little movement. It’s also beneficial because sometimes ASMRtists can make it feel like they are talking into a specific ear (like somebody sitting next to you and whispering into your right ear).

The other great thing about ASMR is the community. I have never experienced such a friendly community. People watch these videos to relax and feel comforted, people make the videos to help and give back to people. Most videos I have watched have very few if any negative comments and sometimes people even offer constructive feedback about how to better enjoy a sound if you find something isn’t working for you. It is possibly one of the friendliest communities I have come across.

But where do I start? This video is probably the best suggestion I can give you if you’re curious. It was the video I started with and some amazing effort has gone into making it. It includes a wide variety of triggers so perhaps skim that video and see if anything triggers you.

Some of my favourite ASMRtists:

Fairy Char ASMR

Mr Meridian ASMR

Sebastian ASMR

The ASMR Gamer

Fred’s Voice ASMR

These are just a few ASMRtists out there. It’s important to find one that you’re comfortable watching. Some have a preference over the gender of their ASMRtists and some just like the sounds. It is entirely subjective and you should be able to explore and actively participate in the community as much as you would like to.

Chasing The Likes

When I was very young and somebody asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up I would tell them I wanted to be a lawyer. Then they told me that required lots of hard work and studying so I changed my mind and pursued the dream of being a writer.

I was asked the same question again when I saw my first psychologist (two years ago). My reply was simple; Actor or Writer. When she asked me if I could see myself doing anything else I replied with “I wouldn’t be happy though.” At the time I thought nothing of it but a few weeks later we had been talking more and more and she had come up with the suggestion that perhaps I find myself wanting the validation of other people more than I want the validation from myself. It was an interesting thought although I didn’t dwell on it for very long at the time. I had spent too many years wanting to be a writer or a journalist to just let that dream die.

It wasn’t until last week when I watched a viral video circulating the internet that I realised just how right she might be. The video explains about the current generation and their social media addiction. Now, I don’t believe myself to have an addiction to social media. I will quite happily leave my phone in my room while I go downstairs to watch TV. I turn the phone off when I’m at work and don’t have it with me at all. I can play games for hours on end and forget to check social media for a long time. That is, however, unless I’ve done something.

By “done something” this isn’t even specific. I could have updated my Facebook status or sent a tweet on Twitter, hell even when I share a blog post I find myself becoming slightly addicted to social media. I didn’t know why this was, I thought it was just because I wanted somebody to like and share my thoughts and ideas, turns out I was a little off the mark.

The reason my social media addiction flares up then is because the brain releases dopamine when people like, share or favourite your things. I will lunge for my phone every time it makes a noise if I think somebody might have subscribed to my blog or liked something I posted on twitter.

It’s probably not news to most people who don’t “chase the likes” because they are removed from the situation and can watch it from the outside. For people like me, we don’t even realise we’re doing it. We argue with friends when they don’t like or share a status or something. Because, to us, it means you don’t value me and I get my validation from what you think of me. I become addicted to that feeling when I see my work shared and liked or commented on. It’s an amazing feeling that actually shoots my happiness way up the charts. However, like any addict, my mood crashes when I don’t get my “hit”. When I don’t get the likes I want or the shares I expect, my mood crashes and I get depressed. These are some of the times it hits the hardest as well because I feel worthless and devalued.

The problem? I don’t know how to not “chase the likes” because it’s all I’ve ever really known. My personality was formed around social media and the internet. It is pounded into us daily that the more followers you have on Twitter the better you are. Viral videos make people celebrities. Overnight fame is achievable. It may be fickle but it’s achievable much more than it was for previous generations.

But this doesn’t help depression. When YouTubers hit a million subscribers, when vloggers get invited to television shows, this just hammers home that I’m not good enough for this world. There is a female YouTuber named Zoella who a lot of people assume I hate. I don’t hate her. I hate her celebrity status? Why? Jealousy. I need the validation that she is getting from other people. I need that following to feel worthwhile in life. It sounds sad to actually read the words back but I can’t argue with how my body reacts to things. For the record, I don’t hate Zoella. Like all YouTubers I claim to “hate” or even “dislike” it’s just jealousy. You have something I want and I’m eternally chasing the validation you get on a daily basis.

I don’t particularly even have a solution here. I’m not going cold turkey from social media because my whole life is built around social media. In my spare time I’m on YouTube. I connect with my friends through Facebook. I check my Twitter when on my break at work. I can’t cold turkey it but I do have to admit I’m an addict for the likes. I don’t know how to not crave that validation or how to find the validation within myself. I just don’t know how to do it.

I’m sorry this is another blog post that doesn’t end happily, but it’s sort of life at the moment. They say the first step is admitting that you have a problem and so please consider this my admission. However, without help, I don’t know how to quit. But, as far as I know, they don’t make chewing gum or patches for quitting others validation.

Online Gaming and Bullying?

First I should preface this entire thing with the saying that “I am not a professional gamer”. I do not play games to earn money or win tournaments or anything like that. I am a gamer that plays for fun. Win or lose I don’t particularly mind, as long as the game is fun to play. With that being said I think I should begin.

I grew up with games and gaming. It was my release from a world that felt didn’t understand me and to interact with people (albeit we only had local multiplayer back then) who I had something in common with. I was lucky enough to be around for the widespread birth of internet gaming, an idea that 8 or 9 year old me would love. A chance to interact with people all over the world who share the same love and passion for games that I do. I very quickly learned that this was not the case.

Early instances of online multiplayer, with games such as Smackdown and Tekken, offered no penalty for quitting a game halfway through. This meant that as soon as you started losing you could quit and it would protect your “reputation”. This is an annoying act in itself as the idea of leaving anything unfinished and unresolved aggravates a lot of people. We were lucky though because it didn’t take long for companies to pick up on this and install certain penalties if you left halfway through a game. However, this didn’t come without problems.

At school  you have to face bullies because you are kept in a place with them, maybe it’s a classroom or a playground, until the teacher dismisses you. This is what has now happened with gaming. Should you not want to quit a game halfway through then you can be subjected to bullying by the rest of the people playing the game.

This happened to me recently. I took a foray into online gaming with a fantastic game called Overwatch that I had heard a lot about. I was so excited about this game because it was genuinely a really good game.

(This wasn’t my first Blizzard game though, I had put a lot of hours into Hearthstone and was always excited to load it up. I wanted the same experience from Overwatch.)

But I do fear my experience with Overwatch has been tainted by the recent bullying I have experienced. I admit I am not great at the game. I’m playing to have fun remember, not necessarily to be the best at the game. However other people feel it fine to tell me through the chat feature to uninstall my game because I’m so bad at it. They also feel the need to tell me which characters I get to play as and then moan about it to the team if I don’t follow their orders. I thought this would go down badly on Overwatch but I found that people AGREED. My team were shouting expletives through the chat at me just because I hadn’t devoted my entire life to being the best at Overwatch. It really put me out when one of my team suggested that the entire team “report me” for reasons unspecified (I believe reporting should only be used for bullying and/or threatening/disruptive behaviour). What really shocked me was that my team agreed! They knew I wasn’t as good as them, your level is clearly displayed, but to gang up and agree a group report based on nothing more than my ability at the game is sickening. This isn’t even “good-natured fun between friends”, I don’t know these people and what they’re saying is not “good-natured fun”, it’s vindictive and horrible bullying.

I don’t write this for me. Personally I’ve given up caring what people think about me when I’m playing games. I don’t play games to help you win, I play whatever is fun for me. I write this for the people who have a hard enough time in their everyday lives and who want to escape into a game only to find themselves vilified and bullied because they don’t practice every waking hour. It equates to bullying. You see people picking on somebody in a school playground you would do something, why do we accept it in gaming circles? Gamers, as people, have a history of being marginalised and so why do we try and do it to each other. Why can’t we offer out an olive branch of perhaps asking somebody if they need help or tips with certain characters? Offering better play strategies? Suggesting easier characters to play as (but if they don’t want to that’s their choice). It’s not a difficult thing to do, it’s actually just being a nice human being.

I understand this boils down to bullying and why people bully. These people have their domain where they are the Alpha Male – tough guys have the playground and gamers have online games – and that they are essentially trying to assert their dominance by bullying others. But bullying, any form it comes in, is disgusting. Games are not a place where gamers should be scared to go, games should be a safe-haven for those having a tough time, those who find it hard to make friends in the outside world, a place where you can escape your “ordinary” life for a while.

Please, let’s not let this get out of hand. You don’t know the mental stability of the person you are playing against. You can’t judged someone’s mental health on how they play and you can’t guarantee that your words aren’t going to be taken personally.

Thank you. As always, if you know somebody who is going through a hard time similar to this then please direct them to this blog and let them know that they aren’t alone and how they’re feeling isn’t something to be ashamed of or to hide away.

Follow me on Twitter – @JoshuaJace121